24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Sylvester - One Of Heyer's Best,
This review is from: Sylvester (Paperback)
Georgette Heyer is in my opinion unsurpassed as an author of Regency period romances. She knows the period detail in and out, and the reader is never disturbed by anachronisms in dress, behaviour, manners, attitudes, or embarrassed by faulty use of titles etc. The persons are allowed to speak for themselves and to show what kind of people they are, instead of the author spelling it out to her audience. The text is intelligent, the persons psychologically coherent, the ever-lurking humour delicious. The protagonists tend to be people you would want to know, and they are surrounded by people who in themselves are worth a tale, who live their own lives, and never make the reader to think that the person has only been invented to add humour or suspense to the plot.
This is what one has learned to expect from a book by Georgette Heyer. "Sylvester" is all this and more. The book is hilariously funny, romantic, even touching in a subtle way. Phoebe and Sylvester are not your typical love-story heroine and hero; both have their better and worse sides, as we people tend to have, and some of Sylvester's character-traits are downright unsympathetic (he is at least partially redeemed during the story). Although neither of them is perfect, you find yourself to be completely on their side. Is this because of the humour they both have, or is it because they, in spite of their imperfections, so thoroughly deserve to be happy and to have each other? Or is it because they, imperfect as they are, are so very life-like? One can't imagine their future life to have been mere bliss; rather one sees them as quarrelling the next forty years in perfect amity. True love is not that you find the other person a paragon; true love is that you accept the coin's both sides, as the good sides and the bad often are reflections of the same character trait. And the main thing is that you are friends, and that I considered Phoebe and Sylvester to be.
There is nothing explicitly sexual about this story. I find this (natural as it is, considering when Heyer has written this book) more believable than having the protagonists eroticizing on some balcony or in a dark garden during some ton party or other, considering the social rules of the era. On the other hand, I had my abdomen in some kind of a grip from the moment that Sylvester marched into the French inn, met Phoebe, with whom he had quarreled most viciously, and was in his joy close to going to embrace Phoebe. This vise-like feeling lasted until they finally got each other at the end of the book. Was it because of my sympathy for them as they were both miserable at the time, or was it caused by the totally unspoken longing that the story vibrated? Sometimes you are more moved by things unsaid than those said. Sylvester's anguished self-control spoke more to me than many a clumsily written overtly erotic passage. I also expect that I would have been less moved if there had been more sentimentality and less humour about the ending.
Phoebe and Sylvester are surrounded by a gallery of vivid people living their lives next to them, having relations to Phoebe and Sylvester and to each other: Phoebe's brother-like friend Tom and his family, Phoebe's family and governess, Sylvester's mother with her companion, his cousin, and the beautiful widow of Sylvester's deceased twin brother with her delightful brat of a son and her dandy of a fiancé. These people seemed totally alive, as did Phoebe and Sylvester. Even Harry, Sylvester's dead brother, seemed more alive than does many a living character in a less well-written book.
Georgette Heyer is an author that you can trust not to bore you with unintelligent dialogue. Her pieces are finished with a lustre, only to be compared to Jane Austen. If you have not read this one, you have something to live for.